One overlooked feature of the NBA’s new All-Star game format: It seemed designed to shorten the game.
Sure, the league wanted to add an interesting wrinkle to a game that had grown stale. The exact details were tweaked to honor Kobe Bryant.
But – in the era of load management – shaving a few minutes off the exhibition game should be taken as a feature, not a bug.
This year’s game ended when a team scored 24 more points than the leading team had entering the fourth quarter. The last time a team had scored 24 or fewer in All-Star quarter: 2010, when the East scored just 23 in the fourth quarter. In the decade since – including the first three quarters Sunday – All-Star teams averaged 24 points every seven minutes.
But Sunday’s fourth quarter took a while longer than the standard 12 minutes for LeBron James‘ team to outscore Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s team, 33-22.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
I’m told the fourth quarter was just a tad longer than 15 minutes of game time compared to a regular 12-minute quarter and it was 43 minutes, 10 second of actual time. https://t.co/UPVDjtb8rD
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) February 17, 2020
Defenses really turned up in the fourth quarter. Here’s how the teams’ shooting percentages changed from the first three quarters to the fourth quarter:
- 2-pointers: 73% to 46%
- 3-pointers: 34% to 23%
More shots being contested also led to more fouls. After attempting just 13 free throws in the first three quarters, the teams took 26 free throws in the fourth quarter.
In The Basketball Tournament, which first introduced the Elam Ending, the target score is eight more points than the leading team has at the first whistle inside four minutes. By turning off the game clock later, there’s less room for variance in gameplay length.
I suspect the NBA would have also turned off the clock later if not using the target score to honor Bryant. Because Bryant wore No. 24 last, the league has generally used that – not his other number, No. 8 – in tributes, including the All-Star jerseys.
With All-Star MVP now named for Bryant – a perfectly fitting lasting tribute – the league can alter the ending format next year.
The concept is sound. The exact execution just needs tweaking.